PA allows over-the-counter syringe sales

    Philadelphia health officials say a new pharmacy rule will help slow the spread of HIV among injection-drug users. Pennsylvania residents can now buy needles and syringes at the pharmacy without a prescription.

    Philadelphia health officials say a new pharmacy rule will help slow the spread of HIV among injection-drug users. Pennsylvania residents can now buy needles and syringes at the pharmacy without a prescription.
    (Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinkarnsfamily/ / CC BY-NC 2.0)
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    [audio:090917tesyringe.mp3]

    Nan Feyler is chief of staff in the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. She says HIV can spread when people share needles. Feyler says over-the-counter sales will make clean needles more available, and she says studies from other states show that the prevention strategy works.

    Feyler: There’s more privacy sometimes, there’s much greater access than even with our needle exchange programs here in Philadelphia. You know, think about it pharmacies are open 24 hours a day, some of them, they’re in many different neighborhoods, there’s a trained health professional and pharmacists who’s there if there’s questions.

    Supporters say the change is also a convenience for diabetics who rely on insulin and need an at-home supply of syringes.

    Scott Burris is a health law professor at Temple University.

    Burris: This is also needed as a way of fighting HIV and hepatitis, particularly hepatitis C, which spreads from injection drug use. Injection drug use not just of heroin, but cocaine, amphetamines even steroids.

    Some people question whether addicts will go into a pharmacy to purchase clean needles. Burris thinks they will.

    Burris: One of the big myths that makes it hard to get policy changes like this, is the belief that drug users don’t want to be saved and can’t be saved, in fact the evidence is overwhelming that drug users will get out of the way to save their own lives if we get out of the way, and what Pennsylvania has done today is get the law out of the way.

    A prescription is no longer required, but pharmacists must supervise syringe sales and stock them behind the counter.

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